1151-1166: Anthony Hay

The earliest document concerning Anthony Hay in Williamsburg is found in the Virginia Gazette daybook of 1750-52. On July 27, 1751, Hay pur­chased a copy of Compleate Housewife and in the following month he bought stationery, a slate, and pencils. From that point on, I lay kept a running account for similar items and books. I le often sent family members and shop employees to pick up these articles, all of w hom are noted in the daybooks.4 They included his sons “Joe” and “Thomas,” Ed­mund Dickinson, Benjamin Bucktrout, and “Wilt­shire,” the latter a slave.

On November 7, 1751, Hay placed his first advertisement in the Gazette: “Wanted. A cabinet or chair-maker, who understands his business. May such man hear of Employment on applying to the Printer.”5 Although this advertisement does not give Hay’s name, the Gazette Daybook contains an entry for that date noting his payment for an “advcrtismcnt for journeymen.” Three w eeks later, essentially the same notice appeared but with an added offer to pay for the remaining time of a servant qualified in the cabinet or chair-making business.6

The success of 1 lay’s appeals for journeymen is unknow n, but it appears that he may have taken two apprentices shortly thereafter. On December 31, 1751, he bought “Blanks For a pair of Indentures” from the Virginia Gazette, and five months later made an identical purchase.7 As he w as buying only a pair of indentures at a time, and since they follow his know n advertisements, they may indicate individual instances of apprenticeship. The possibility exists, however, that they were intended for deeds, slaves, or servants.

In 1756 I lay paid £200 for the two lots on Nicholson Street w here his shop and home were located.8 Their excavation in I960 established that the main building was constructed sometime be­tween 1740 and 1755. A westward extension, built on brick pillars and spanning a small stream, was added no earlier than 1755, but before 1770.9Asmall bridge that had crossed the stream prior to the completion of this addition w as discovered to have footings of mahogany, and a long narrow building behind the shop, possibly used as a drying kiln, had foundations laid on planks that also included mahogany. This w ood was used, no doubt, because the builders were aware of its resistance to decay. (See “Hay Shop Excavation” for a discussion of artifacts recovered at the site.)

It is possible that the expansion of the shop dates to the approximate time of 1 lay’s purchase of the lot.

The main portion of the building already existed at that point, and it is reasonable to surmise that I lay had rented it prior to the purchase. Supporting this conclusion is an advertisement placed in 1755 by James Wilson, a London carver working with I lay, indicating that he was already established in a well-known location.10 Some of the pieces attributed to Hay’s shop appear to date from the 1740s, and although he is not documented as being in town until 1751, he may have been working at the Nicholson Street location during the earlier decade.

Like most tradesmen of this period, Hay is difficult to research. Few records concerning him exist, although he is known to have been associated with Christopher Ford, Jr., a Williamsburg car­penter and joiner, during March of 1755. At that time they advertised in the Virginia Gazette:

Just Imported, and to be SOLD, by the Subscribers in


A Large Assortment of Carpenters, Joiners, and Cabinet-Makers Tools, consisting of White’s Steel Plate Saws of all Sorts, Glue Jointers, long Planes, Bench Planes, Tooth and Smoothing ditto. Mould­ing Planes of all Sorts, Plane Irons, Chisels, For­mers, Scribing Gouges, Rasps, Files, Turkey Oil­Stones, German Slates, and Variety of other things.

Christopher Ford, Jun.

Anthony Hay"

Neither the duration nor extent of their partner­ship is clear, and no further mention is made of a joint venture by the two. A short time thereafter Hay was working w ith another artisan, a profes­sional carver, w ho advertised from his shop in June of 1755:

JAMES WILSON, Carver, from LONDON, MAKES all kinds of Ornaments in Stuco, human Figures and Flowers, &c. &c. Stuco Cornishes in Plaster, carved or plain, after the best Manner; likew ise Stone finishing on Walls; he likew ise carves in Wood, cuts Seals in Gold or Silver; and is to be spoke w ith at Mr. Anthony Hay’s, Cabinet-Maker, in Williamsburg.12

It is worth noting at this point that an important ceremonial armchair attributed to the combined talents of Anthony Hay and James Wilson w ill be discussed in depth in a later portion of the text (see fig. 46).

While pieces attributed to Hay have wide geographic provenances, documentation establish­ing corresponding patronage is lacking. A few accounts of work he did for Williamsburg residents survive, however, including those of six chairs at fifteen shillings each for William Hunter, editor of the Virginia Gazette, in 1752. Between 1755 and 1762

he charged William Lightfoot, burgess from Charles City County, £18 for a dozen chairs, £3 for two small tables, and £4 for a writing table, і lay also made a coffin for his father-in-law, Thomas Penman, and a desk-and-bookcase costing £10 for Alexander Craig.13

Anthony Hay’s active employment in the cabinetmaking trade ended late in 1766. An im­portant notice, one of two that sheds light on his move from the cabinet shop and on his sucessor, appeared early in the following year:


MR. ANTHONY HAY having lately removed to the RAWLEIGH tavern, the subscriber has taken his shop, where the business w ill be carried on in all its branches. He hoped that those Gentle­men who were Mr. I lay’s customers will favour him with their orders, which shall be executed in the best and most expeditious manner. He likewise makes all sorts of Chinese and Gothick PALING for gardens and summer houses.

N. G. SPINET and HARPSICORDS made and repaired.

Updated: September 27, 2015 — 11:25 pm